A Double Race Weekend

Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Training

It wasn’t a particularly tough weekend as the two races didn’t duplicate disciplines, but it was nonetheless fun… and wet!

On Saturday, I raced in a cute, small race called the Spring Couples Relay.  I’ve done this race maybe a dozen times and it’s always super fun despite the bouts of super high intensity.  My partner a few years ago was this tiny dynamo named Jessica.  She hails from Ecuador, and we met rather by chance while she was a student at Baruch.  She lifeguarded while I swam at their pool, and I’d often see photos of her next to championship banners for swimming and running.  Later, she joined my triathlon team and we quickly became friends.  I adore her.  Super smart, super sweet, amazingly fast, and always smiling.

The race consists of a male-female team where one party completes a 2.2 mile run, the other completes a 12.2 mile bike, and then both parties get into a row boat in Central Park and navigate a kidney-shaped pond for about 3/4 of a mile in a flat-bottomed beast of a rowboat.  In 2013, we won first place overall thanks to her run effort.  Unlike years past, in 2013 the bike leg was first.  I was 5th and Jessica chewed up the competition on the run putting us in first place for the boat.  We managed to hold off the competition with me rowing and her navigating and we were overall champs!

This year, they swapped the run and bike.  Jessica is coming off a running injury and isn’t quite pain-free, but still soldiered on.  She took off at the start and came in 2nd with just some super fast guy in front of her.  She tagged me and I took off like a bandit in front of the lead cyclist.  I found her quickly and hammered away in wet, cold, and windy conditions.  Halfway through the first of two laps of Central Park, the race organizer in his SUV pulled in front of me to announce to the other park visitors that they needed to make the road clear for the “lead cyclist”.  Wow, it was at that moment that I realized that I was winning the race… on a bike!  I’ve never been in that position before and I was both thrilled and terrified.  I’m used to chasing, not holding off the wolves.  Well, that dilemma only lasted another five or so minutes longer before this monster biker passed me.  Okay, second place was still pretty good.  I hammered as best I could through the second lap and with about 3-4 minutes left to go, I got passed again.  This time, I managed to keep the guy within my sights and I estimate that I got into transition about 10 seconds behind him.  Given a really fast transition however, Jessica and I were out of transition before him and his partner and made it to the boat in front of them.

Here’s where the fun began and where our day went sideways.  We had a decent lead for the first few minutes as we navigated around buoys.  But, the guy in third place was so strong and passed me despite my efforts to block his path but in a way that didn’t make it seem obvious.  It became obvious to me that we weren’t going to overtake him, and with fourth place very far away, Jessica and I began chatting as it became a leisurely jaunt in the pond on a rowboat.  We were nearing the end of the race when an oncoming boat, way out of its path, collided with ours in a t-bone collision.  It took a few moments to get disentangled, and low and behold, the fourth place boat seemed to just magically appear.  The rower’s power was obvious as he ate up the distance between us.  I immediately panicked and saw the potential for the final 50 meters to enable him to overtake us.  I rowed furiously… and right into a big tentacled tree branch sticking out of the water.  Jessica tried to free us but this thing grabbed my oar and we were stuck.  When we got free, fourth place was just about even with us… until another wayward competitor collided with them, thus freeing us to row the final meters to the finish line.  Whew, what a relief!

In the end, we got third place overall.  We would have loved to repeat our 2013 overall victory, but being on the overall podium was still a major thrill!  I remain so indebted to Jessica for persevering through her injury and the chilly conditions.  Pics chronicling the day are below.


Excited to race!

Excited to race!


Alone on the bike.  A new and odd feeling.

Alone on the bike. A new and odd feeling.


Another lonely bike shot.

Another lonely bike shot.


I'm smiling and grimacing at the same time!

I’m smiling and grimacing at the same time!


Central Park was beautiful despite the gloomy conditions.

Central Park was beautiful despite the gloomy conditions.  We’re the left-most boat and our pursuers are in red to the right (with a race official in yellow).


Seems like all is well.  Little did we know that the 4th place boat was in hot pursuit!

Seems like all is well. Little did we know that the 4th place boat was in hot pursuit!


The final push to the finish line.

The final push to the finish line.


Third Place Overall!

Third Place Overall!


My legs reflect the road grime thrown off by the bike.

My legs reflect the road grime thrown off by the bike.


The bike was a dirt magnet.  It looked like we went off-road riding!

The bike was a dirt magnet. It looked like we went off-road riding!


The next day (today in fact), I raced the New York Road Runners Japan Day 4 Miler in Central Park.  I had it in my mind that I’d run the 3.5 miles to the run start from my apartment to get in a nice warmup with lots of time to stretch… only to wake up to 51 degrees, wind, and rain.  I bailed and took a taxi.  Not that big a deal in the scheme of things, but that got me to the race far earlier than planned, thus I had to stand in my thin race gear for 45 minutes in the rain and cold.  I found a big tree to stand under and after a few shifts of position, got myself almost completely protected from the rain.  Once the horn sounded, the rain ended, so it wound up being a decent morning.  Colder is always my preference to hot days, so this was good for me.

I really had low expectations.  I’ve been lazy lately.  Lack of motivation has seen me blow off runs for 10 days or so, and I figured my lack of preparation would be readily apparent this morning.  My first mile however was 8:05.  Not having a particular goal, I figured I’d average between 8:20 to 8:30 per mile, so while this first mile split was good, it made me wonder if I was going out too hard only to have slower miles for the latter half, thus achieving the dreaded “positive split”.  The second mile was 7:58.  Egad, I was screwing myself… but I wasn’t trying to go fast.  I ran according to instinct and how I generally felt.  It all seemed fine.  When it got to be a little too hard, I slowed down a little.  Simple plan I thought.  The third mile features the three west side hills, so my mile split of 8:18 was both expected, and both evidence of what was assuredly going to be that positive split.  I kinda resigned myself to that fate and kept on going.  I did find that I felt pretty strong despite earlier challenges and decided to up the effort a bit.  When my watch revealed that I had maybe 2 and a half minutes of running left and I could sense the finish line, I pushed even harder.  As we made one last turn on the course, I pulled out the stops and ran my hardest (short of a sprint).  In the end, my watch revealed a finish time of 31:54.  Breaking 32 minutes was not in the equation.  33-something would have been heroic, but this finishing time meant that my fourth mile was 7:33.  It’s not that fast in the scheme of “real” runners, but for my too-big belly and my lack of effort recently, this was a big deal to me.  So, I smiled… a lot.  I high-fived volunteers and other runners, and couldn’t wait to tell Roya all about the day.

Another double race weekend is in the books.  Next up is the Gran Fondo cycling event next weekend, followed by the Brooklyn Half Marathon six days later.  May is a busy month!

Race finish.  Wet and happy!

Race finish. Wet and happy!

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